Rondo shines in Celtics loss

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Rondo shines in Celtics loss

NEW YORK Whether it was the result of not having Paul Pierce (right heel), or motivation from the trade rumors involving Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo looked like a different kind of player for the Boston Celtics on Sunday.

Fans are used to Rondo run the game well. But hitting jump shots? And free throws?

Where did that come from?

Rondo's play was one of the highlights in an otherwise disappointing start to the season for Boston, as the team dropped its season opener 106-104 to the New York Knicks.

"He attacked early. He set the tone, got into the paint and softened up their defense," said Allen. "That's a great sign for us."

Carmelo Anthony's late-game heroics aside, for most of Sunday's game Rondo was the best player on the floor.

And unlike the Rondo we've come to know, he didn't rely primarily on his ball distribution skills either.

He had a team-high 31 points on 11-for-19 shooting.

Of his 11 made field goals, three of them were jumpers from 17 feet or further.

A 57 percent free throw shooter, Rondo also showed a greater willingness to get into the paint and draw contact.

In addition to knocking down 11 of his 19 shots from the field, Rondo also connected on 9 of 12 free throws.

To put that in perspective, the most free-throw attempts that Rondo recorded last season was 11 (he made 5) against the Knicks on April 24.

"I'm going to try and get to the line a lot more," said Rondo, who also had 13 assists and five steals. "Some calls went my way early on. I just have to stay aggressive."

Coach Doc Rivers isn't into moral victories, but he couldn't deny the impact Rondo had on the game -- and how that impact is a positive for the Celtics moving forward.

"We want him to be aggressive," Rivers said. "The best part of the game for us was that, I thought Rondo attacked the basket. This is the Rondo we want. This is what we talked about last year, getting to the free-throw line, taking the shots when they're open. I thought he was the aggressor in the game."

And with Pierce out indefinitely, the Celtics will need more of the same with the Miami Heat up next.

But don't think for a minute that Rondo is all of a sudden going to morph into a scoring point guard.

"It's just one game," he said. "Obviously, when Pierce gets back, some of the shots will go to P. But whatever the team needs me to do; if it's being aggressive or being a pass-first point guard like I am . . . Whatever the team needs, whatever Doc wants me to do."

It's clear that Rondo has the right mental approach to this season.

But what remains vague is whether the trade talk involving him this summer, is at the root of what appears to be a different Rondo.

"I tried to have a better focus, each game," he said. "It may not be me scoring every night like I scored tonight; just try to do the intangibles out there on the floor, whether it's loose balls, diving on the floor, getting my hands on deflections, whatever the team needs me to do."

Now a reliever, Kelly returns to Red Sox, Hembree sent down

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Now a reliever, Kelly returns to Red Sox, Hembree sent down

The Red Sox have recalled right-hander Joe Kelly from Triple-A Pawtucket, where he had been working out of the bullpen, and optioned right-handed reliever Heath Hembree back to the PawSox.

Kelly, originally in the Red Sox starting rotation this season, was plagued by injuries and ineffectiveness as a starter (8.46 ERA) but has rebounded as a reliever in Pawtucket (no runs allowed in five relief innings with one walk and nine strikeouts).

Hembree (4-0, 2.41) has been hit hard since the All-Star break, including giving up a run on three hits and allowing two inherited runners to score in a five-run seventh inning of an 11-9 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Saturday night. 

Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 11-9 loss to the Twins

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Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 11-9 loss to the Twins

Three things we learned from the Boston Red Sox’ 11-9 loss to the Minnesota Twins . . .

1) David Price isn’t having fun

Boston’s $217 million-dollar arm had another rough outing -- this time against a team that already has 60 losses.

Those are the team’s he’s supposed to dominate.

“It’s been terrible,” Price said on how his season has gone following the loss. “Just awful.”

Price’s mistakes have often been credited to mechanical mishaps this year. Farrell mentioned that following his start in New York, Price spent time working on getting more of a downhill trajectory on his pitches.

But Price doesn’t think his issue is physical.

So it must be mental -- but he doesn’t feel that’s the case either.

“Honestly I don’t think it’s either one of those,” Price said when asked which he thought was a factor. “It’s me going out there and making pitches. “

But when it comes down to the barebones, pitching -- much like anything else -- is a physical and mental act.

So when he says it’s neither, that’s almost impossible. It could be both, but it has to be one.

His mind could be racing out on the mound from a manifestation of the issues he’s had throughout the season.

Or it could just be that his fastball isn’t changing planes consistently, like Farrell mentioned.

Both could be possible too, but it takes a certain type of physical approach and mental approach to pitch -- and Price needs to figure out which one is the issue, or how to address both. 

2) Sandy Leon might be coming back to Earth

Over his last five games, Boston’s new leading catcher is hitting .176 (3-for-17), dropping his average to .395.

A couple things have to be understood. His average is still impressive. In the five games prior to this dry spell, Leon went 7-for-19 (.368) But -- much like Jackie Bradley Jr. -- Leon hasn’t been known for his offensive output throughout his career. So dry spells are always tests of how he can respond to adversity and make necessary adjustments quickly.

Furthermore, if he’s not so much falling into a funk as opposed to becoming the real Sandy Leon -- what is Boston getting?

Is his run going to be remembered as an exciting run that lasted much longer than anyone expected? Or if he going to show he’s a legitimate hitter that can hit at least -.260 to .280 with a little pop from the bottom of the line-up?

What’s more, if he turns back into the Sandy Leon he’s been throughout his career, the Red Sox will have an interesting dilemma on how to handle the catching situation once again.

3) Heath Hembree has lost the momentum he gained after being called up.

Following Saturday’s contest, the right-hander was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket after an outing where he went 1/3 of an inning, giving up a run on three hits -- and allowing some inherited runners to score.

Hembree at one point was the savior of the bullpen, stretching his arm out over three innings at a time to bail out the scuffling Red Sox starting rotation that abused it’s bullpen.

His ERA is still only 2.41 -- and this has been the most he’s ever pitched that big league level -- but the Red Sox have seen a change in him since the All-Star break.

Which makes sense, given that hitters have seven hits and two walks against him in his 1.1 innings of work -- spanning four games since the break.

“He’s not confident pitcher right now,” John Farrell said about Hembree before announcing his demotion. “As good as Heath has been for the vast majority of this year -- and really in the whole first half -- the four times out since the break have been the other side of that.”

Joe Kelly will be the pitcher to replace Hembree and Farrell hopes to be able to stretch him out over multiple innings at a time, as well.